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Chapter 5: Neolithic 3 (Pages 380-383)


Excerpts and Definitions and Addendums:

The structures of Neolithic 3 sites in the North and South Syrian groups were built in the Neolithic 2 tradition. They were rectilinear, usually multi-roomed and constructed of mud-brick, stone and timber if these were available in the locality. Their interiors lacked the decoration found in many Neolithic 2 houses since, if they had plaster floors, these were not coloured and there was no painted plaster on the walls.

There was a change in both the type of settlement and the style of building in Palestine. The inhabitants of Neolithic 3 sites in this region lived in pit dwellings and constructed few substantial buildings. The pit dwellings were made of timber, branches and reeds with very little mud-brick or stone. They would only have been hanbitable for a few years at a time in contrast with the houses on sites further north which would have stood for a generation or more. The pit dwellings on the Palestinian sites were thus occupied for much shorter lengths of time than the houses on other Neolithic 3 sites which may imply that the sites were inhabited for shorter periods also.

There is much evidence of continuity of tradition in the chipped stone industry although there were certain significant changes. The two main types of flint tool on most sites were arrowheads and sickle blades. Arrowheads were less numerous on most Neolithic 3 sites than they had been in Neolithic 2, a trend which is probably linked with a decline in hunting. The proportion of sickle blades appears to have risen slightly on most sites though these were made differently from the usual Neolithic 2 varieties. The finely-denticulated ones were almost certainly principally used to harvest cereals but we do not know if the coarse denticulated ones were used for this purpose or for cutting tough-stemmed plants such as reeds. The increase in the manufacture of sickle blades is associarted with more intensive agriculture in Neolithic 3 but probaly also reflects a more methodical and efficient exploitation of plants other than cereals.

Larger flint flaked axes, adzes and chisels were conspicuous tools on most Neolithic 3 sites. They often had polished edges for more efficient cutting. They have been found in the Amuq at Tell Judaidah, at sites along the coast such as Tell Sukas, Kubbah I and Byblos, in the Bekaa at Tell Labweh North, in the Upper Jordan Valley at Beisamun, Tannur, Hagosherim and elsewhere, at Tell Ramad III and in Palestine at Abu Gosh and Munhatta. All these were in the Mediterranean forest zone where these tools were used to cut and work timber. They have not been found at sites in the intermediate open forest zone and the steppe where trees were much more scattered. Small polished axes and chisels usually made from imported hard greenstones were more common in Neolithic 3 than Neolithic 2 and were also associated with an increase in woodworking. We saw in chapter 1 that the pollen cores show that man was now exploiting the timber in the Mediterranean forest zone in sufficient quantity to alter the vegetation.

Blade and flake scrapers were noticeably less common on most Neolithic 3 sites than before. These tools were used particularly to clean animal skins so the decline in their use was probably another reflection of a reduction in hunting.

The manufacture and use of pottery began about 6000 BC on sites in the North and South Syrian groups. The idea of making pottery spread rapidly throughout this region. Only in Palestine was there any delay since it was not used much there until new Neolithic 3 sites were founded following the almost complete collapse of the Neolithic 2 way of life. The making of pottery began several centuries earlier in Anatolia if the carbon 14 dates from Catal Hoyuk are correct since it was used there at least as early as 6300 BC. It is possible therefore that the idea of potting spread south from Anatolia into the Levant rather than arising locally. Most Neolithic 3 pottery was simple in shape, finish and manufacture as one would expect with such a new product but almost at once regional styles of decoration and even painting grew up. The pots were made locally, probably at each settlement site. The wares were too poor to withstand much rough treatment or to be carried very far so the product was not traded in Neolithic 3.

The new type of container must have answered a universal need since its widespread adoption was so rapid. Pottery also came to supersede other kinds of vessels. Fewer stone dishes and bowls were made in Neolithic 3 than in Neolithic 2 and of those that were used only a small proportion were of the highly-polished variety made of attractive stones which were quite common in Neolithic 2. Most white plaster vessels were relatively large and may have served as storage vessels. These continued to be used well into Neolithic 3 and only then were superseded. It probably took some time to develop large pots of fine enough quality to be used instead of the plaster vessels so it was not until this happened that they went out of use.

Querns, rubbers and other grinding tools were more common on many Neolithic 3 sites than they had been earlier. Almost certainly this increase reflects a greater intensity of agricultural activity.

The use of bone for tools seems not to have been altered significantly in Neolithic 3. The same types of borers, spatulae, hafts and needles were made as in Neolithic 2 and as far as we know in about the same quantity. These everyday tools seem to have been used in the same way as before. Other artifacts were made in greater variety than in previous stages. Stone maceheads have been found on a number of Neolithic 3 sites which could have been used as weapons or weights. Spindle whorls were certainly more common so presumably more yarn was being spun.

Ornamental artifacts were also made in greater quantity and variety. Colourful stone beads and amulets often made of exotic stones have been found on most Neolithic 3 sites in the North and South Syrian groups though they were less common in Palestine. Seals, while still rare, were certainly used more than in Neolithic 2. A number of examples have been found on the large settlement sites such as Tell Judaidah and Byblos. The designs on them usually consisted of simple linear patterns but each was different from the others. I think it reasonable to assume they were actually used as seals or stamps.

Fewer human and animal figurines were made in Neolithic 3 than in Neolithic 2. The human figurines that have been found like those at Munhatta, Shaar Hagolan and other southern sites were more stylised and elaborately fashioned than before. Other forms of human representation such as the pebble figurines from Byblos were also more stylised.

The richeest artifact inventory found on the large settlement sites is a sign of increased wealth among these communities. It is also an indication that crafts were flourishing in response for a greater demand ...

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